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The financial aid floodgates have opened.

Starting October 1, you may submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form to begin your financial aid process for the 2018-19 school year. Before you start (and to help ward off any panic), let’s review what’s new, what you need to know, and what Frank can do to make the daunting task not-so-daunting at all.

We’ll start from the beginning.

First Things First…

The FAFSA® is a form that students and their families submit to determine eligibility for federal grants (free money you don’t have to repay), federal loans (money you do have to repay), and work-study programs (opportunities to earn money for education expenses). If you’re even thinking about attending college during the 2018-19 academic year, filing the FAFSA® is a must.

While there are some basic eligibility requirements, aid is available to anyone with a household income below $250,000 and most students will qualify for at least some aid. In fact, students often receive $10,000-$30,000 worth of aid in their first year.

Even if you don’t think you qualify, you’re encouraged to fill out the form anyway. The FAFSA® is used by many states and colleges to award grants and scholarships to prospective students, and it’s a required first step to taking out any federal student loans, loans that come with considerably cheaper payback options than private loans.

All of this is the long way of saying “make sure you file your FAFSA®,” and do it early.

So, What’s New for the 2018-2019 FAFSA®?

According to studentaid.ed.gov, the 2018–19 FAFSA® includes some worthy changes:

First, let’s talk about the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). As may know, the IRS DRT allows students and their families to electronically transfer federal tax returns directly into the FAFSA® form. However, it went offline early last spring after identity thieves hacked the tool and used it to file fraudulent tax returns. Well, the DRT is back, and this time comes with added security features.

In its new form, tax information transferred from the IRS into the FAFSA® form will no longer be visible. Instead of seeing the actual numbers transferred, you’ll see “transferred from the IRS” in each data field on FAFSA.gov, the IRS DRT page, and on your Student Aid Report (SAR). This is intended as an enhanced security measure.

The number of applicants/ parents eligible to use the IRS DRT has also increased this year. Amended tax return filers are now able to use the IRS DRT to transfer their IRS tax return information from their original tax return into the FAFSA® form.

Another change is the definition of “youth,” as it pertains to homelessness. Students older than 21 but not yet 24, and who are unaccompanied and homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless, qualify as independent students and can file the FAFSA® form as independent students without a dependency override.

Important FAFSA® Deadlines

Let’s talk dates:

  • FAFSA® opened for the 2018-19 year October 1, 2017.
  • FAFSA® will close June 30, 2019.
  • Your FAFSA® should be filed as soon as you can.

That’s right, students receive a full 18 months to apply for financial aid. However, this is one case where getting it done early actually pays. We can’t stress this enough – file your FAFSA® as early as you can.

The earlier you file the FAFSA®, the better the chance you’ll be awarded money that you don’t have to pay back. That equates to free money for school. Financial aid via need-based loans will always be available, but grant money is the first to go. Colleges and universities only have so much free money to give out. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Also, be aware that every state has its own deadline for FAFSA®, as does every college. You’ll want to check the official 2018-2019 FAFSA® Deadlines (PDF) for the latest information.

But again, you should file as close to the October 1 open date as possible.

Types of Financial Aid Available

A submitted FAFSA® forms opens the door for many different types of financial aid packages, including:

Certain aid types will go quicker than others, and it’s important to know how they differ to help you get the best package for your needs (with the fewest repayment requirements). Learn more about how to pay for college via the Frank Resource Center.

Get Organized, Then Let Frank Help

It’s time to talk about filing the FAFSA®. Doing so can often be a confusing and time-consuming process. There’s a reason only 49% of eligible students complete the task.

Frank makes the process quick and painless by handling many of the more complicated steps for you and allowing you to complete your FAFSA® in just four minutes.

Before Frank can help expedite the FAFSA® process on your behalf, you’ll need to create an FSA ID. Each student, and one parent of each dependent student, will need an FSA ID to file. You can create your ID at fsaid.ed.gov.

Once you have your ID, simply gather the seven pieces of information outlined in our Frank FAFSA® Checklist (like your tax information, asset information and your list of colleges) and we’ll help you breeze through the application. When collecting your tax information, note that the 2018–19 FAFSA® form will report your 2016 income information. Requesting tax income from an earlier tax year is a change in the previous system.

If you have additional questions while filing, check out our applying for FAFSA® resources to address things like how to file as an independent, with divorced parents, as an eligible non-citizen or how to correct errors on submitted FAFSA®s.

Waiting Is the Hardest Part

Once you file your FAFSA®, waiting to receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) can be the hardest, most nail-biting part.

The length of time it takes to hear back from your FAFSA® submission will depend on how you filed. For an electronically completed FAFSA® signed online with an FSA ID, you’ll receive a link to your SAR in as little as three to five days. Paper FAFSA® applications can take up to three weeks to come back.

To receive your SAR as quick as possible, do these three things:

  1. File Online
  2. Provide an email address
  3. Sign with your FSA ID

If you haven’t heard anything back from FAFSA® within three weeks, you can check online.

File Your 2018-19 FAFSA®

Filing for financial aid can be an intimidating process, but we can help you simplify it. Pay attention to the information outlined above and get that FAFSA® filed as soon as you can. You have to nothing to lose by filing, and potentially tens of thousands of reasons to get moving.

Higher education awaits.

We are not affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education. Federal Student Aid (FSA), an office of the U.S. Department of Education, makes the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and assistance available to the public for free at fafsa.gov.